TripAdvisor launches system for hotels faced with blackmail from guests

It’s been part of the user review story for years – hotels worried about customers holding them to ransom with the threat of a bad review unless they get a refund or an upgrade.

Such is the potential damage to a hotel from such activity that TripAdvisor has this week launched a new feature as part of its management tools to help property owners if faced with a scenario.

The user review giant says it hears from hoteliers occasionally that a customer has threatened to write a negative review about a property “unless a demand a refund, upgrade, or other request is met”.

Reporting a threat via the service’s owner tools “can supplement our investigative procedure and help us keep blackmail reviews from ever reaching the site”.

Owners can now directly report any threat so that a flag is put against future reviews which might look suspicious.

A guide to the new tool says:

“We take allegations of blackmail or threatening behavior by guests against property owners very seriously. This activity is strictly against our guidelines and may also be illegal in many locations.”

TripAdvisor says the reporting of blackmail will only work at the time the threat is made, rather than after it appears online.

The company says “most guests” do not follow through on their threats, but it is important for owners to ensure they report all potential activity.

It also warns that it cannot guarantee that every review under question will be removed, so recommends that managers still post a response to any questionable reviews.

NB: Blackmail image via Shutterstock.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.

 

Comments

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  1. Mesmeric Moments

    Appreciate the efforts made by TripAdvisor. Sense of security should be for both the hoteliers and the customers.

     
  2. mary

    Hoteliers could report this matter already from the owner centre…nothing new! however why isn’t tripadvisor clear about what hoteliers need to show to have the fake reviews removed or to report the threaten? well they want something written… they really think guests are going to blackmail you and write it down in an email? how can you prove it then? tripadvisor will never do anything to protect hoteliers, more reviews (fake or not, who cares?) higher business listing and ad costs!

     
  3. Ankit Bhargava

    Its an ornamental decision just to address the Hoteliers when TriAdvisor is asking them lot of money by offering business listings.

     
  4. Mike

    If the hotels are being blackmailed, why don’t they just call the police. I was under the impression that blackmail is illegal. That way they can allow all law abiding clients to post construtive comments about them.

     
  5. Stuart McD

    What’s the privacy implications of something like this?

    Consider the inevitable: some unscrupulous hotel shafts guests then immediately reports them to TA for some veiled threat that never actually occurred.

    What information does the hotel need to pass to TA to support the report? Guest name? Booking dates? Email addresses? Number of guests in room? (Think of the trysts unveiled!) and so on.

    Are hotels even permitted to share this type of information?

    Once received what can TA do with the information? Email the guests perhaps to suggest they try a different hotel next time their in X on a “business trip”?

    Can of worms.

     
  6. Veronica delaney

    Bad Move as it negates ALL reviews .Reviews are there to give the good and bad .If the hotel is bad -and some of them are ,then the review will warn prospective visitors . If the review is A RANT ,then the visitor will see it as such and ignore it . If a place has 20 posative reviews and 1 suspect review ,then its obvious that its a blackmail attempt .
    If reviewers are flagged for a negative review ,what value has any review. ?
    I have 17 reviews ,scoring 4.5 out of 5 stars . This would have NO value if I was able to block any review that I didn’t like .

     
  7. Marchred

    Nice twist there, Durant. I’d be offended if it was put in terms of “… if you give us a good review …”, but if it’s just the usual “… as a gesture we have upgraded you …” then I say BRING IT ON!!!!! 🙂

     
  8. Dahleez Hotels gurgaon

    A very right step taken by trip advisor against false threats and blackmailing from some of the ridiculus guest due to this many these type of activities becomes lower

     
  9. Durant Imboden

    On a happier note, some hotels upgrade guests when better rooms are sitting vacant (at least in my experience), presumably in the hope of getting positive reviews on TripAdvisor or booking sites like Venere.com and Booking.com. Instead of being blackmailed by guests who threaten to say bad things, they’re giving their guests incentives to say good things. I don’t know if TripAdvisor, etc. would consider that bribery, but it’s certainly a pleasant surprise for the lucky guests.

     
  10. Ankit Bhargava

    It is definitely a welcoming move however we would see the practical results in few months from now.

    TA has gone much aggressive on Business Listings and I am sure they must be getting the feedback from Hoteliers about what they actually feel about TA (most of the Hoteliers I know ..call TA a necessary evil). Blackmailing by Guests is the very common scenario and therefore this feature had to come up to show support to Hoteliers as well and break the image of “uncontrolled weapon in hands of Guests”.

    For sure the evaluation of the Blackmail flags are going to be more of mechanized than the manually arbitrated cases. The fact that Hoteliers would need to explain the reasons why they feel they feel any such review is about to come, the guests would get smarter by NOT writing about the obvious good or bad but may pick up something else to take a revenge. “I am leaving a night earlier, I will not pay the retention. If you do not accept I will vomit on TA” v/s “I found the management to be pathetic and non cooperative. The Rooms are in bad shape and there is no cleanliness in toilets”.

    Anyway,
    I love TA as much as I hate it 🙂

     
  11. Geoff Whitmore

    Sounds like a great tool, but I mostly agree that owners need to be proactive about responding to reviews. Plus, people who make such threats usually don’t get taken seriously since their reviews tend to be in ALL CAPS, and clearly written out of anger.
    I typically dismiss those because they say more of the person writing than of the business. But when an owner responds to the reviews, it shows consumers that they are proactive in trying to alleviate the issue.

     
  12. Gerti Gruber

    Very important feature, we have been already confroted at our reception with guests handling like this.
    It is more than a year ago, and as we did not lower the price, we received a very bad review, and it hasn’t been possible, to get it deleted, even, as we told our arguments.

     
  13. Michelle Pegg

    Definitely a good move to protect the hotels reputation but one that shouldn’t have to be implemented in an ideal world. Personally I would never dream of threatening a hotel with a negative review. Be interesting to see how this unfolds over the next few weeks

     
  14. Marchred

    I agree with MIchael Kaye – it’s worth giving it a go.

    We are avid users of TripAdvisor and have never “guessed” wrong when we have chosen accommodation, etc when we have consulted the sire for tips.

    Just as one bad review does not make it a bad establishment, one good review does not make it a good establishment. Canny travellers need to canvas a variety of opinions and also determine if the cause for complaint or kudos is valid. For example, we saw one review for a hotel in China that was negative because the staff did not speak very good English – we discounted that review from our deliberations, stayed at the hotel and found the staff with whom we came into contact spoke very good English!

    At the end of the day, no revieiwing system is perfect as by its nature it is subjective, but I do think hoteliers and the like can suffer great damage from a malicious review and there does need to be some way of balancing the ledger.

    I haven’t yet had to write a bad review – if I ever have to do so I’ll be interested to see if the establishment has tried to gazump me 🙂

     
  15. RobertKCole

    @radosc – The key is having the hotels pre-emptively report review-mail threats. Hypothetically, TripAdvisor should be able to identify hotels that try to game the system by having an inordinate number of filings.

    On the other hand, expert review-mailers may wind up learning to defend them selves by adjusting their halos and declaring that they would never dream of threatening a hotel for compensation. For example, all the guest needs to do is say “We found the dead body under our bed, so we asked for our money back, but the hotel refused. As a result, we were left with no alternative than to write a bad review, which we would have anyway…”

    TripAdvisor would have a hard time siding with the hotel if that type of scenario was expressed, even if the reality was “Give us a free night, or we’ll say you have dead bodies under the beds…”

    The problem is that TripAdvisor will not want to formally play judge or arbitrator – that process does not scale well. TA will need to weigh the cost against the benefit of badly needed goodwill from the hoteliers.

    So again, it may not eliminate the problem, but will hopefully serve as some form of deterrent for ill behaving guests – especially if TA can track any repeat offenders…

     
  16. Bernie O'Keefe

    I think its a good move. We have been blackmailed in such circumstances and we had so much trouble trying to prove to Tripadvisor that it was a bogus review, even when we knew it was coming.

    I believe TripAdvisor will always favour the guest if it is questionable over who is telling the truth – but if the evidence mounts up against the reviewer – I think that is ok for Tripadvisor to back the Hotelier in this situation.

    I also think Tripadvisor should weigh up other factors such as ‘how often a hotel uses this tool’, and what is the general review score for the hotel is before making a decision

     
  17. Michael Kaye

    So far the score is Good Move 2. Bad move 1. If I had to bet I’d go with it is somewhere between a good move or a bad move, since virtually nothing is all good or all bad. To paraphrase whoever said this first, it is very hard to predict how things will turn out, especially if it is about the future. Therefore trying it is a good move, because it is the best way to settle the question of whether the goodness of the move outweighs the badness of the move.
    The other side of the Trip Advisor Blackmail coin is Trip Advisor Bribery—promising a positive review in return for a consideration. Here’s a blog post I wrote about it 2 years ago this past September. http://www.vacationtimeisprecious.com/2010/09/trip-advisor-blackmail-and-bribery/

     
  18. Madhu Nair

    A good move … but what if the service was really bad. The hotel mgt to forsee that and flag the user. I think they should just leave it as is. In most cases when you read a review you can make out if the guest was acting a tad unreasonable. This combined with Hotel Mgt comments (which already exists) should suffice.

     
  19. radosc

    It’s not a good move. Most of critical reviews are legitimate, There will be a big problem with objectivity and in the end tripadvisor will loose as a review site. I just cannot see it work in a long term I would rather see a dispute tool for a customer and hotel there….

     
    • Nabucodonosor araglaza

      Some Hotel owners uses this site to implicate an employee creating a fake complaint, which is used to fire the employee. Some selfish also use this site to take advantage and get some money back or a free room night.

       
  20. RobertKCole

    Nice proactive step by TripAdvisor to help the hotels protect themselves from unscrupulous guests.

    Not sure if the TripAdvisor team are going to enjoy playing the role of arbiter between the guest and the hotelier by deciding if contentious reviews run or are blocked, but happy so see they are making an effort.

    Won’t eradicate the problem, but the number of free meals, upgrades and refunds should be reduced for the truly gratuitous cases.

     
    • Petr

      Not sure if the TripAdvisor team are going to enjoy playing the role of arbiter
      – they won’t help a bit. A guest wrote on our tripadvisor that our staff is drunk all day long and were accusing them of drinking in the morning which resulted in as he put it “not honoring agreements”.. TA did not want to withdraw the review even though this was the only occurence of such kind and there was no further implication or any other review that would suggest what the guest described would be an ongoing situation…

       
 
 

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